...and we all know what that means: Summer is y-commen in, and with it thunderstorms, heat, sweaty whatnots and, wait for it... City Theatre's Summer Shorts 2018 on the Susan Westfall Stage in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Nine short plays, ball park ten minutes each... and we all know what that means: you're gonna like some, ho hum a few, and cringe, eyes averted at maybe one or two. But don't blame the cast. Any missteps are in the writing.
First claps go to “Allurphobia” written by Scott Gibson, directed by Michael Yawney, and with Marquise Rogers and Diana Garle thrashing around on a bed in their undieduds. Warning: may cause a shortness of breath amongst the d.o.m. in the audience. Fun stuff and brought into a solar flash with Tom Wahl's cat. The superciliousness of the feline is astonishing. And hilarious.
Claps also to the musical, “The Almost In-Laws” with soon to be wed Alex Alvarez and Daryl Patrice meeting his forest bound parents. Alvarez sings the birds out of the trees, Elizabeth Dimon and Tom Wahl are the wonderfully weird parents (and huge kisses here to Ellis Tillman for his costuming here and throughout the show) and Patrice teaches Alvarez how to be a nice guy. Written by Greg Edwards and Andy Roninson. Directed by Clive Cholerton with musical direction by Caryl Fantel and choreo by Sandra Portel-Andreu.
Whistles and stomps to “Melto Man and Lady Mantis” with Alex Alvarez and Elizabeth Dimon bewailing the results of industrial accidents. Great stuff and you might want to catch Alvarez's melting fingers and head. Written by Eric Pfeffinger and directed by Margaret Ledford.
A serious Tom Wahl in a serious piece about an alcoholic writer is fascinating as the Fillmore crowd waits for Wahl to read from his latest book in “Bloodbath at the Fillmore.” Wahl is cynical, exhausted. His wife has just walked out that morning. He'd rather mull than read. Excellence from the cast, with Dimon as Wahl's sister, Garle as the stage manager, Rogers as the house manager and Patrice as his editor urge him to get ready for the places call. Garle would tread hot rocks for him, she's young, she's cute, she's read all his books, and in the closing scene admits “I would f... the s... out of you”, thus pretty much knocking the props out of the good acting and writing preceding. A strange decision by the writer and the director allowing crudity to spoil the piece. Written by Audrey Cefaly and directed by Gail S. Garrisan.
The ho hums start with “Run,” written by Bekah Brunstetter and directed by Michael Yawney has father Alex Alvarez encouraging his slouch daughter Daryl Patrice to become more athletic. There's a lot of running, including extras zooming by, and it all proves that Dad loves his little girl.
Not even Elizabeth Dimon and Tom Wahl as a married couple can bring real interest to Sheila Cowley's “Duck” where the two reminisce over objects stored in their garage. It would help if real objects were used rather than empty hands holding air as the object is described. Directed by Gail S. Garrisan.
“Covenant (or Bagels and Butchery)”, written by Ken Weitzman and directed by Jessica Farr has Alex Alvarez as a Jewish man rationalizing the coming circumcision of his son and the loving understanding of his Gentile wife, Diana Garle. Well acted, of course, but obvious.
And here comes the cringe in your seat and wonder why this thing was ever produced moment.
The closer for the first act is Steve Yockey's “Bedtime.” Lightning flashes, thunder booms, night gowned Diana Garle comes down the stairs into her basement. She waves a large pair of shiny scissors at her friend, Daryl Patrice. There's crazed talk of “I don't want to hurt you.” “There's a hooded stalker after me.” Patrice screams, hides behind a mattress, Garle simpers, more lightning, more thunder, a hooded stalker appears on the stairs. Lightning. Thunder. The end. What have I just watched? Beats me, Lieutenant. Directed by Margaret M. Ledford.
Recovery mode now as the shows finale is “One More Time” by Mark Harvey Levine as the entire cast, (thanks again, Ellis Tillman) becomes the Small World Singers at a Disney World ride. Dimon is the Dutch Girl, Wahl is the Hula Boy, Rogers the American Cowboy, Patrice, the French Ballerina, Alvarez the Russian Boy, and Garle the Chinese Girl. Each has his/her moment of splendor and then the skit fades into the Grande Finale as the interns enter the stage.
Jodi Dellaventura designed the set, floating flats with furniture provided as needed. Simple and effective. Lights by Eric Nelson, props by Jameelah Bailey and sound by Steve Shapiro.
Cleaners after the show were busy sweeping the stage of ears knocked off by the extraordinarily loud preshow and inter scene music.
City Theatre's Summer Shorts runs through Sunday July 1 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. 305-949-6722 https://www.citytheatre.com